25 years is a long time. 25 years ago, Australia had only one cricket World Cup victory. 25 years ago, a quick innings would be a run-a-ball hundred. 25 years ago, there were 8 full members, Allan Border was the leading test run scorer, and the West Indies were on a 12 year unbeaten streak. Times have most certainly changed.
Considering how different the cricket world was in 1992, one can only wonder how different it will look in 2042: 25 years from now. For starters, technology will play a far larger role, expanding in scope and being used widely. From practice in academies to taking center stage in a World Cup final, from training to rehabilitation to the middle of the action on the field; technology will be everywhere in the sport. It may sound bad, but it is largely a step forward. On field errors will be made less and less with a more accurate, better controlled DRS, as well as specialist third umpires to speed up the process for DRS, close run outs and stumpings, and calling no balls. Preparation for challenging tours will be unprecedented and, at the same time not be taxing on the body, with virtual reality playing a key part in the process. Technology is the future, and it shouldn’t be pushed away.
Context will finally be provided to the awkward middle child of cricket: ODIs. The main problem that dogs ODI cricket now is a lack of meaningful games. 25 years from now, a proper, 3 year league will be in place, starting with 13 teams but expanding to 15. This will make bilateral ODIs far more watchable as they now have the added context of leading up to something important, as well as mandating all teams to play each other, undoubtedly a massive positive for the smaller nations. The year following the ODI league’s third year will be the World Cup year, the year when cricket’s showpiece event will be held. After a very brief experiment with 10 teams, it was returned to 14, then expanded to 16, and by 2042, it is a 20 team competition. This is where heroes from the smaller nations are made, and an out-of-nowhere tournament victory by an outsider remains the greatest possible heist a team can pull.
T20s are one of the great revolutionaries of the last 25 years. In the next 25 years, the format is revolutionized further. Being cricket’s path to the Olympics, it has brought riches to the sport like never before. No longer does any board need to concern itself with a large majority of the grassroots and development funding. Olympic cricket guarantees that funding from the government. This has resulted in a huge surge in the sports image and popularity in countries as vital to the sports market as China, the United States, and Germany, as well as palpable benefits to the existing full members and top associates as well. Initially, Olympic cricket is bossed by the existing full members, but by 2042, some unexpected countries have challenged established cricketing bases for the coveted gold. The World T20s will have changed too. Held every 4 years once more starting from 2022, the path to qualification is a different beast to what it currently is. Looking similar to the path to the FIFA World Cup, qualification is now entirely regional, with select few spots available from each of the ICC’s 5 regions. While not as important to most nations as the Olympics or the 50 over World Cup, the World T20 is usually the starting point for recognition teams and their players can receive from the rest of the cricket world.
T20 leagues are still a massive thing, but a compromise between them and the rest of international cricket will have been found. 3 windows, two of 2 months and one of 1 month, have been assigned for T20 leagues. One 2 month window is for the northern summer, the other for the southern summer, and the 1 month window is flexible, to accommodate a new and improved Champions League, liberated from all of the problems that dogged its previous incarnation, and rotated between countries. The individual leagues, to fit in with their small windows, have either amalgamated with geographically close ones or expanded to accommodate up and coming lands. The Caribbean Premier League is now the Americas T20 League, featuring teams from New York, Toronto and Los Angeles as well as the Caribbean islands. The BBL now includes 2 teams from New Zealand and one each from Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea. The T20 Global League is now the African T20 League, primarily made up of South African teams but also having representatives from Zimbabwe and a Rest of Africa side. The English T20 League became the European T20 League, which, in addition to its English sides, had representatives from Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Berlin. The leading sides from each edition of these tournaments meet annually at the Champions League, the pinnacle of domestic cricket everywhere in the world.
As for international cricket’s oldest son, test cricket will look changed, but in every way necessary. Day-night tests will become ever more prevalent, with as many as half to two-thirds of all tests played in a year using floodlights. With changes to ticketing in these games, where cheaper tickets can be bought for the last two sessions of the day only, attendances for the format, especially in well marketed, well-managed day-nighters, increase. This is further helped by making teams more competitive by them having almost all of their best players. This is done by a massive roll out of central red ball and white ball contracts managed by the ICC, almost able to match what the richest T20 leagues offer while having tempting fringe benefits along with them. The initial iteration of this mass central roll out provides a stable income and use of ICC and member facilities and coaching staff to 150 players each for red ball and white ball, which is eventually expanded to 200. To fund this, the ICC takes a larger proportion of the income from broadcast deals and international ticket sales than before, but as the boards no longer have to worry about paying their top players, it is eagerly accepted. A few renegades continue to offer their services to the highest bidder, but they are very few and very far between. The structure of test cricket also becomes tiered, with promotion and relegation in a two tier test structure of 12 teams, which later becomes 16, which extends into the Intercontinental Cup. Test cricket has relevance, its best players, and greater popularity. Its future is secure, as is the rest of this great sport which, after releasing itself from the shackles of its conservative past, grows from strength to strength at a rate rarely seen before in the world of sport. It is a future everyone can get behind.